Honda is joining a push in Ohio to interest middle and high school students in manufacturing careers, a move stemming from increasing concerns about future shortages of qualified workers.
As part of a multifaceted effort, Honda has committed $1 million to scholarships, partnerships with technical schools, summer technology camps and the development of a video game designed to show students the high-tech skills required in today’s manufacturing jobs.
Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, said the company is worried it will face difficulties finding enough workers with the science, technology and math skills to staff its four manufacturing plants in Ohio.
“We see a potential challenge down the road,” Schostek said in an interview. “We are seeing a lack of interest in manufacturing as a career.”
According to a study by Deloitte and the Manufacturing Institute, there will be a need for more than 3.4 million U.S. manufacturing jobs over the next decade. But based on continued job creation and an aging workforce, 2 million of those jobs -- nearly 60 percent -- will go unfilled because prospective employees lack interest or essential skills.
Schostek said Honda expects to see significant numbers of Ohio workers retire in the years ahead. The retirement wave “is not critical [yet] but it’s coming,” he said.
For now, Honda doesn’t have trouble filling factory jobs, but Schostek said the company is acting now in a bid to “enhance the pipeline” of future workers.
The effort Honda is undertaking in Ohio involves sponsoring weeklong summer camps to teach young students computer programming, Web and app development and other tech skills.
The company is also funding twelve $2,500 scholarships for students who choose to study manufacturing; a work-study program with Columbus State Community College; and a science and technology high school program in Marysville, where Honda opened its first U.S. auto assembly plant in 1982.
Honda has also provided funding for a video game, aimed and middle and high school students, that is designed to show the high-tech nature of today’s auto production work, and a series of mobile labs to give students hands on experience with robotics and other advanced equipment they would work with in manufacturing jobs.
Schostek said there’s a need to dispel notions among parents and kids that factory jobs involve low pay and backbreaking physical labor.
“The factory floor of 2015 is not the factory floor of 1985,” he said. “The manufacturing floor is very exciting and it’s high-tech. We need to make young people know that there are good-paying, high-quality jobs in manufacturing.”